Chapter 1982 Sand Storm
The MTA task force resisted the onslaught of sandman monoliths quite well.
The superior defense of their warships allowed them to withstand a continuous barrage of positron beams. Their shielding systems were exceptionally helpful in resisting the prodigious amount of positrons accelerating towards their hulls.
The advanced sunlight propulsion systems allowed the vessels to outmaneuver and outpace the large but sluggish sandman monoliths. Even the MTA feared what might happen if any of the sandman monoliths came close enough to engulf the ships!
As for the firepower, both the mechs and warships were capable of projecting an enormous amount of damage. If it was the old sandmen, the MTA would have already cleaned them by now!
Sadly for everyone involved, the sandmen of today were completely different from the sandmen of yesterday!
Against the immense firepower of the MTA forces, the sandmen simply merged their monoliths together to form larger amalgamations that were slower than their smaller counterparts.
However, what they gave up in mobility, they gained in power!
More specifically, the larger sandman amalgamations were capable of projecting much more resilient shields that could endure against anything the MTA mechs and warships were throwing at them! Even if a shield was reaching its limit, another sandman amalgamation would just fly forward and take off the pressure!
The uncharacteristically-intelligent actions of the sandmen wasn't limited to just this tactic.
More nefariously, the sandmen began to converge upon the MTA task force from different directions. It soon became clear that the sandmen focused less on the scattered mechs in order to surround the MTA carriers and warships!
Though the MTA officers could see the sandmen coming, there was hardly anything they could do to break the encirclement! No matter where their vessels moved, the sandmen matched their pace, especially when they broke up their larger monoliths into smaller but much more mobile swarms!
Though the MTA did its best to concentrate its firepower and overpower as many sandmen as possible, there were simply too many enemies!
The noose tightened more and more around the MTA task force's neck as the dozen of advanced ships began to run out of room.
No matter what tricks they utilized, they could only defeat a handful of monoliths at most! Even their most powerful antimatter torpedoes and other arsenal of doomsday weapons only slaughtered a few hundreds of monoliths at most!
Though the MTA managed to inflict more damage to the sandmen by launching these planet-cracking missiles than anyone else had achieved so far, there were still at least ten-thousand monoliths ready to take the place of their fallen!
When it came to attrition warfare, the sandman possessed no equal! The full might and numbers of the sandman race had converged on the Bentheim System to achieve victory at all cost!
The same couldn't be said for the MTA. Overburdened with responsibilities and occupied by many other priorities, the MTA's Komodo Branch refused to dispatch more than a medium-sized task force to Bentheim.
Without even a single battleship, the various cruisers and destroyers were unable to make up for the extremely lopsided disparity in numbers!
As the encirclement slammed shut, the MTA ran out of time and space.
With the sandman monoliths radiating a huge amount of gravitic interference, the ships were unable to engage their FTL systems to escape the net.
Everyone who had access to a feed of the plight of the MTA tuned in and watched with bated breath for the outcome of this titanic clash.
A myriad of lasers, rounds, missiles and more exotic weapons slammed against the approaching megamonoliths as the larger amalgamations were being called.
Though slow, their advance could not be stopped. Their size surpassed the size of a 12-kilometer long battleship and their defense was not that much worse!
The incredible amount of energy it outputted confused everybody. Even at this moment, nobody knew where the sandmen were able to generate so much energy!
The sandman race possessed a direct relationship with matter and energy.
The aliens hungered for higher qualities of exotics to empower their individual members, which subsequently translated to strengthening the collective.
The sandmen also hunger for energy, which was needed to sustain all of their activities!
It was a surprise how much of a difference a few months of retreat and consolidation made to the sandmen. Now, not even the second-rate states were capable of fending off so many upgraded sandmen!
It became increasingly more difficult to observe the dire state of the MTA task force. Everyone hoped that it held at least some weapons in reserve.
As one of the two most powerful human organizations in the galaxy, the MTA long made a name for itself for its overwhelming strength and advanced technology!
Yet even though the vessels were doing right by the MTA's reputation, it wasn't enough!
As the sandman monoliths and megamonoliths finally cornered the task force, the first ship finally got a taste of what it was light to fight the sandmen at point-blank range!
A small squad of multipurpose mechs attempted to retreat from the incoming sand storm, but the latter suddenly accelerated forward as if it received an energy boost!
Soon enough, the first-class mechs became engulfed by an increasingly denser sand storm!
We need backup!
Once an entire monolith formed around the trapped mechs, an incredible amount of heat and pressure slammed against their shields!
The rest of the task force lost contact with mechs soon afterwards, but the stricken mechers weren't paying attention to their lost mechs as an even greater emergency took place!
The Splendid Archon is caught!
The second-largest cruiser of the MTA task force failed to maneuver her way out of the approaching sandman megamonoliths. They approached from too many angles to avoid collisions!
The moment the megamonoliths touched the shield of the Splendid Archon, the sandmen began to surround it as if they were trying to glaze a turkey with honey.
More megamonoliths arrived to add more sandmen to the forming coffin. All the while, the Splendid Archon and the other ships and mechs of the MTA desperately tried to free the trapped ship, to no avail!
Eventually, the coffin had grown so big that the shield couldn't take anymore strain! It dropped, thereby giving the sandmen a golden opportunity to touch the hull of the ship!
Once they did so, the armor of the warships held out remarkably well, yet the sandmen specialized in breaking solid matter!
Hundreds of years ago, the sandmen managed to ambush and crash the Starlight Megalodon.
If the sandmen could already achieve this amazing feat so long ago, then how could a mere cruiser resist?
Even though technology had advanced a lot in three centuries, the sandmen attacking the Bentheim System weren't the sandmen of old!
No! She's lost!
The huge sandman megalith that formed around the Splendid Archon finally bulged inwards! This signified that the sandmen had succeeded in breaching or crushing the cruiser's outer shell!
The fall of the Splendid Archon marked a turning point in the Battle of Bentheim. While the sandman megalith eagerly enjoyed its 'meal', more were approaching from multiple directions in order to grab their own bites!
The MTA task force is done for!
Bentheim is lost!
Something unimaginable happened to the soldiers of the Mech Corps.
Some of the mech regiments started to pull out!
Where are you going?!
Bentheim is lost! We need to preserve as much strength as possible!
No matter what justifications they brought up, the soldiers and commanders of the surviving mech regiments no longer believed the battle was winnable.
After losing so many of their fighting assets and after seeing how decisively the sandmen took down the strongest defenders of the star system, many of them arbitrarily ignored their standing orders and sought to leave!
Once the initial units left the battle line, the pressure on the remaining defenders increased!
Soon enough, those overburdered mech regiments couldn't take it anymore! Having lost the majority of their fighting assets, they were hardly in a position to resist the thousands of sandman monoliths that remained intact!
More commanders ordered their units to retreat. Their actions led to a collapse that could not be stopped!
When it came down to it, hardly any soldier wanted to throw their lives away in vain!
No matter how important it was to defend Bentheim, when the mech pilots and mech commanders believed that victory wasn't possible anymore, their willingness to stand their ground evaporated!
Even the Flagrant Vandals eventually joined the ranks of the deserters.
Many of the Vandals felt ashamed for this dishonorable act. Even if their retreat was justifiable, their pride and honor took a permanent hit!
Captain Orfan wanted to continue to fight. She was not done yet with the sandmen!
Yet… her fellow Vandals weren't as eager. Exhausted beyond recognition, her comrades were unable to muster up any strength!
Even if they were able to regain their peak condition, what could they do without any mechs?
Almost seventy percent of their spaceborn mechs turned into scrap floating in space! The thirty percent they had left were far from capable of resisting the sandmen. Even though they only suffered some glancing hits, the incredibly powerful positron beams still caused the machines to suffer crippling damage!
Captain Orfan had no choice but to accept the inevitable. The Vandals fought as brave as any soldier of the Mech Corps, but it was hard to put up a fight without the weapons needed to make the sandmen bleed!
Eventually, she said nothing as Major Verle finally issued the command that every Vandal was waiting for. They were bailing out.
Perhaps deliberately, the sandmen didn't chase after the mech regiments that sought to flee their grasp. This only encouraged the remaining mech regiments to flee as well!
By now, the situation had grown completely out of control. With the formation of MTA warships engulfed by a sandstorm the size of a moon, no other source of help was forthcoming!
The citizens on Bentheim each looked up in the sky as faint shadows and flickers of lights started to grow bigger and bigger.
In the end, the people on the streets were even able to see solid objects in the skies!
Instead of the reassuring sight of metal ships and neat formations of mechs, they instead saw the face of their doom.
Bentheim experienced its first, only and final sandstorm in its history as a settled planet.
Throughout the rest of the star sector, everyone else was in the dark. Many people tuned in to the news portals in order to follow the latest course of events. The revelation that the MTA hadn't been doing so well in repelling the surprisingly-strong sandman invaders shocked a lot of people, including the Fridaymen and Hexers!
The abrupt communications blackout fueled everyone's speculations. The galactic net was filled with questions and uncertainty!
Yet despite all of the pleas for clarification, the MTA remained absolutely mum on what was taking place in the Bentheim System. Not even the politicians in Rittersberg knew what was going on in their most important economic lifeline!
Ves watched the same loop of news updates projected by his desk terminal with a numb expression.
Lucky pressed his paw against his forearm.
I know, I know. I'm supposed to be working on the striker mech design. It's just.. I can't. Bentheim may not have been my home, but it has shaped my life for many years.
The Comm Consortium wouldn't maintain the blockade for so long if the Battle of Bentheim proceeded well. I'm afraid.. the unthinkable has happened.
His intuition hinted that he was right. From all of the clues he gathered so far along with analyzing the quantity and quality of sandman monoliths, Ves knew that the MTA task force was way in over its head!
The supposedly primitive and backwards sandmen were far stronger than they had led everyone to believe! No one expected the barely-sentient aliens to pursue such a deep and long-running stratagem under the noses of the smartest military leaders of the star sector!
What a surprise! He gasped.
In hindsight, he shouldn't be surprised. If his guesses of the true culprit turned out to be true, then he should have expected the sandmen to pull off such a devious plot!